Suspect denies stabbing five at New York rabbi's home

US media reported that he was covered in blood when officers detained him

TOPSHOT - Suspect in Hanukkah celebration stabbings Thomas Grafton, 37 years old from Greenwood Lake,  leaves the Ramapo Town Hall in Airmont, New York after being arrested on December 29, 2019. An intruder stabbed and wounded five people at a rabbi's house in New York during a gathering to celebrate the Jewish festival of Hanukkah late on December 28, 2019, officials and media reports said. Local police departments, speaking to AFP, declined to give the number of people injured. / AFP / Kena Betancur

A man appeared in a New York court on Sunday charged with five counts of attempted murder after a stabbing spree at a rabbi's house that left Hanukkah celebrants throwing furniture to defend themselves.

It was the latest in a spate of attacks on Jewish targets.

Grafton Thomas, 37, was accused of entering the property in Monsey, Rockland County, during celebrations on Saturday evening for the Jewish Hanukkah festival, and stabbing several people with a machete before fleeing.

US media reported that Mr Thomas was covered in blood when officers detained him. He was remanded in custody after appearing in Ramapo Town Court, where he denied the charges.

The attack at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg was quickly condemned as another incident underscoring growing anti-Semitic violence in the United States.

President Donald Trump tweeted that Americans "must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism".

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said "these are people who intend to create mass harm, mass violence – generate fear based on race, colour, creed".

The New York Times quoted Taleea Collins, a friend of Mr Thomas, and his pastor, Wendy Paige, as saying he had struggled with mental illness.

No official details were released about the victims. Local media said one person was seriously wounded.

Mr Thomas was reportedly arrested in his car about 50 kilometres away, two hours after the attack.

"Everyone was screaming and panicking and shouting 'out, out, out!' It was chaos," Joseph Gluck, 30, said. "I threw a coffee table at the guy. Then he started to come after me."

Last year a white supremacist shot dead 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue – the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the United States.

Earlier this month, six people, including the two attackers, were killed in a shooting at a kosher deli in Jersey City, New Jersey, which authorities said was fuelled in part by anti-Semitism.

A report in April from the Anti-Defamation League said the number of anti-Semitic attacks in 2018 was close to the record of 2017, with 1,879 incidents.

As he did Sunday, Mr Trump denounced anti-Semitism after previous attacks but critics blame him for stoking racial hatred with comments about Muslims and Latin migrants that some white nationalists have taken as confirming their position.

Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are Jewish.

Following the attack, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the creation of community  groups tasked with preventing hate crimes, along with stepped up police patrols.

"Fearing the next act of terror will not become the new normal for our Jewish neighbours. In New York City, diversity is our strength and we respect the traditions of all who call New York City home," the mayor said.

At Mr Thomas's court appearance, bail was set at $5 million (Dh18.36m) he was taken in handcuffs to a police vehicle and driven to Rockland County Jail.

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